Sevan (via Alaverdi), Yerevan via de selim pass, Gyumri.
Goght (via Sevan, Yerevan), Gyumri.
Border crossing, Goght, and Gyumri
Border crossing into Armenia
The weather in Georgia had not been at par with our average; hence we decided to change our plan by visiting Armenia first. The border crossing into Armenia was easy and we did not notice any of the fraudulent practices that everyone warned us for. The only new thing was that passengers need to walk passed the immigration and cannot stay in the car. To get the formalities for the car completed, a fixer or broker is certainly not required, neither mandatory! Yes, the spoken English of most officials is poor and it took a while before we understood that we had to pay at the "bank counter" before we could receive the stamps... The third party insurance could be bought just outside of the border gate in dollars (at a reasonable rate... although they tried to give less in Armenian change than supposed to).
The landscape in Armenia, was much more mountainous than we had had in Georgia and we liked it instantly. It was a pleasant drive towards the 3Gs B&B and campsite near Yerevan passing several abandoned cities as well as the main tourist town of Sevan and its huge lake. We had made the right decision... The weather in Armenia was much better! We enjoyed the luxury of the campsite and just relaxed for two days. One evening we joined Berry and Jenna on their visit to the nearby Temple and a delicious dinner at a noisy trout farm and restaurant where many locals were dancing.
The temple of Garni is Greco-Roman temple complex probably built in the 1st century AD by King Tiridates I of Armenia with the support of the Roman Emperor Nero. And the complex hosts a number of buildings including a royal palace, Roman baths, and a 9th Century church. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1679, the Garni Temple was partially reconstructed in the 1970s and is now made up of both original and replacement masonry.
After one more day at the 3Gs, at the pool and had a pleasant diner with Marty and Sandra eating mushroom risotto, with some pancetta many fresh herbs we explored a little bit more. We visited the Geghard monastery located against the hills looking into the valley, close to the campsite.
At the turn of the 4th century, only one nation in the world had accepted Christianity as its official religion, and it was not a country anyone would expect. Led by Gregory the Illuminator who baptized the Armenian royal family in 301, the nation plunged into religion, collecting artifacts and building spectacular monasteries along the way. The Geghard Monastery began only as a small cave chapel, which Gregory declared held a sacred spring in the 4th century. From there, the complex grew, becoming more ornate and massive. In 1215, the main and most prominent chapel was built. Partially carved out of the rocks on all sides of it, the stone monastery melds beautifully with its surroundings and stands out among the outcroppings above. Geghard is a derivative of an Armenian word meaning Monastery of the Spear. The complex was named after the spear used to wound Jesus during the Crucifixion. Allegedly, the spear was brought to Armenia after the Crucifixion and is now housed in the Echmiadzin Treasury, in the spiritual center of Armenia.
After that we headed towards Tbilisi via Gyumri and the Bavra crossing. In Gyumri we decided to take a hotel as it was really hot and enjoyed a diner at the trout farm on the edge of town. This time, instead of trout, we tried the sturgeon; their specialty. It was really good.
Crossing the border into Georgia the next day was the easiest border crossing thus far. No waiting lines, a straightforward process and friendly officers who wave you forward.